The hardest part of traveling: coming home

There’s a Fitzgerald quote about traveling that I love. It goes:

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”

Bangkok, Thailand

I have always found the hardest part of traveling to be the journey home. For starters, sitting on a plane is way less exciting when you’re just going back home. But it also means a lot of other things: less adventures, less new friends, less good food, and in general, less smiles from me.

While everything at home might be exactly the same as when I left it, I have changed and my view on “home” has changed too. Each time I get back, it’s a process of re-adapting to what I consider comfortable. Sleeping in a bedroom alone (instead of a hostel room filled with other people) and in a small town (instead of bustling cities) takes a while to get used to again. I sometimes forget that street food is not a thing at home, and that I have to actually drive to get somewhere with food. Adjusting back to being home is almost harder for me than it is to adjust to a new country.

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The other part of coming home that I have not seemed to master yet is explaining my trips to my friends and family. I have never quite figured out how to describe all of the new things I have seen and experienced.

I was thinking about how to describe Bangkok, and I wanted to tell someone about the markets. My first thought was: The markets in Bangkok are a lot like the markets in Morocco! And then, as confusion spread across their face, I realized that they had not been to Morocco and that comparing travel experiences with other travel experiences makes sense to very few people.

When I tell my family and friends of travel mishaps (like that one time I got robbed in Eastern Europe), they begin to disapprove of traveling solo, which is exactly the opposite of what I want everyone to think. Yes, there are dangers to traveling (solo or in a group), but it doesn’t make traveling any less worth it. I now have stories to tell of sitting in an embassy for hours to get a new passport and getting stranded in the middle of the night (on Easter Sunday no less) in the southern Netherlands (fun fact, these two things happened in the same week). But I loved my time traveling in Europe just like I love all of my trips, even when traveling isn’t always as clean and perfect as it might seem.

So the question remains: how was the trip?

Maybe it’s less that I don’t know how to answer that, but more that it’s the wrong question. I can’t even begin to sum up the trip into one sentence, but I would be able to tell you stories of the night safari in Bali or of Sentosa Island in Singapore. Ask me about the places I went or ask me about the food, anything that is more specific than asking about my trip as a whole.

Stockholm, Sweden

3 thoughts on “The hardest part of traveling: coming home

  1. I hope it will not be to hard for you to “come home” someday cause we love and miss you! I find it interesting that you refer to this as a trip, I think it may be a whole lifestyle for you and so “home” is in Shanghai for the time being, and who knows what other exciting places the future has in store for you! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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